April 23, 2018

The Secret Key of Washington's Dysfunction

So the Jonah Goldberg podcast struck gold around the discussion of why the Congress is so dysfunctional.

Jonah averred that the Founding Fathers made a mistake in not anticipating a time when one of the three co-equal branches of government would not stand up for itself, would not try to assert it’s power and prerogatives but simply lay down and capitulate and settle for being a Morning Joe guest pundit. This is what the modern Congress has done and thus the executive and judicial have become disproportionally powerful and the legislative very weak.

Sen. Ben Sasse said he asked the retiring Obama folks what was their biggest surprise when working with Congress, and he said it was almost verbatim what the George W. Bush folks said - that the Congress begs the executive to do things that are within the purview of the legislative.

“The biggest surprise is when a senior senator of the majority party comes to me and asks us to do something by executive order that is a 70-30 issue [70% of public in favor]...we say, ‘Senator, that’s a 70-30 issue and we’re not even sure it’s constitutional, whether it’s executive overreach, and you have the gavel so why would you not want to do this thing?’ and they’d say, ‘oh absolutely you’re right, it’s a 70-30 issue but the 70% just want the outcome, and if I can call and tell them you’re going to do it by executive order, all the people in my state or district are going to be happy that I delivered the good news, but the 30%, they’re going to be pissed, and I’d rather ‘em be hacked off at you than me, you’re a nameless, faceless bureaucrat.’"

"So incumbency became a really powerful thing and that’s weird. I don’t think the Founders were wrong about much, they certainly weren’t wrong about human nature, but they didn’t think that people would want to be in D.C. for the rest of their life, like this was the center of the universe, they really thought the place you’re raising your kids, or where you’re a member of the rotary club or where you’re designing the next widget or the next app that that would be the compelling place you’d want to be, and there are a whole bunch of people right now whose local communities are hollowed out enough that being in D.C. feels like a really compelling way to be at the center of the universe. I don’t think the Founders wanted D.C. to be that interesting.

"And I think that’s a product of the moment we’re going through where the digital revolution and the changing nature of work is hollowing out the sense of 'place' for a lot of people, so D.C. feels more like a place than the place many people come from, and the Founders certainly didn’t anticipate that problem.”
Jonah half-joked that it was air-conditioning that ruined the nation, since it was only a/c that made D.C. bearable.  The British ambassador used to leave the city in May every year in protest.

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